Twin Hills Gumbo Hike March 21, 2015 by Allison McGee
On the second day of spring, the temp was still chilly but the ground was clear of snow. As hike participants arrived it was evident that people were eager to be outside and shake off the winter cabin fever.
To make introductions among the 14 of us, our Volunteer Trip Leader David Bennett from Venture Outdoors asked us each to tell about a food that reminded us of home. The diversity of our group was revealed as each shared memories of Korean, Polish, Taiwanese, Italian and Southern Appalachian cooking… some very different upbringings, but at the same time a common deep connection that family recipes give us to our childhood.
And along the lines of connection, it was also part of the story of the Mt Lebanon Nature Conservancy and their role in local passive use parks in collaboration with municipal resources as well as leveraging volunteers to maintain and improve the parks for the community’s use. Trail maintenance and invasive abatement is a key activity. There is also a focus on encouraging enjoyment and appreciation of the parks through events such as School in the Park. Conducted annually for over 20 years, it was designed to be an enrichment program for third graders and to incorporate the conservancy’s goal of teaching the interrelatedness of all living things.
We were tracking through some Spring mud, which slowed our progress at times. But hikers enjoyed the leisurely pace and come good conversation with their newly discovered common interests. We went through many of the well maintained trails in the 25 acre park, then we exited and made way to my home for steaming bowls of delicious gumbo, along with French bread and dessert. A warming fire in the fire pit took the last bit of chill off the morning coolness as we enjoyed a day that was beginning its climb into the mid 50’s.
It was a morning of finding community with others, and also learning about a park that was new to many participants. We heard of how community involvement has lovingly transformed and maintained the park. We heard about foxes and Cooper Hawks that make their home there. Our day was energized by newly made friends and delicious food. Connections and collaboration, was the theme of the day and this joint Venture Outdoors and Mt Lebanon Nature Conservancy hike may become a new tradition.